Jun 11

From the Town Administrator's Desk - June 11, 2021

Posted on June 11, 2021 at 4:29 PM by Tiffany Marletta

ATM Special Articles - By Gregory T. Federspiel

The Annual Town Meeting is almost here.  Plan on coming to the Hyland Athletic Field at the Middle High School on June 21 for the 6:30PM start. (The “gates” open at 5:30 so come early to get a choice seat!)

Our regular administrative and budgetary articles, 1-10, will take up the first part of the meeting.  Articles 11 – 16 are special articles which are summarized below.

Article 11 comes to us via a request from the Town of Hamilton to relocate a portion of Chebacco Road in Hamilton that lies within conservation land owned by Manchester.  The current gravel road runs along the bank just above Gravely Pond, part of our drinking water supply.  Hamilton proposes to relocate this portion of the road some 200 feet further away from Gravely Pond.  This will better serve the handful of residents in the area and will afford better protection to the Pond.  Hamilton proposes to pave this section of relocated road and install up to date stormwater management measures which will further improve water quality in our water supply reservoir.  There will remain a stretch of gravel road in Manchester just past the transfer station and before this newly paved road in Hamilton.  The existing road easement and another road easement that was created but never used will be discontinued and a new easement for the proposed road will be created.  There is a net gain of roughly 1 acre of conservation land free of any easements.  Because this is conservation land, the discontinuance of the old easements and the creation of the new easement requires state legislative approval under Article 97 of the State Constitution.  The Selectmen recommend voter approval of this article. 

Articles 12-16 are citizen petition articles.  Article 12 is a non-binding article with two parts. Part (a) asks voters to express their opposition to the multi-family apartment complex proposed by Strategic Land Ventures (SLV) at Shingle Hill. Part (b) asks voters to express support for the production of more affordable housing in Manchester that is in keeping with the character of the Town and following the recommendations of our Housing Production Plan. 

Article 13 seeks to amend the Town’s Earth Removal By-law by placing additional requirements for blasting related to large projects (over 20 housing units or 100,000 square feet of commercial space.)  It requires the Planning Board to craft blasting guidelines and to approve blasting for larger projects by a 2/3rds majority vote.  The Planning Board, concluding that blasting is highly regulated by the State, does not feel this amendment is necessary.

Another citizen petition proposing an amendment to Town By-laws concerns access to large developments.  In Article 14 voters are asked to approve an addition to our General Bylaws by adding to Article X a new Section 46 that would require housing projects over 100 units or 75,000 square feet to have two paved access roads open at all times.  This type of regulation is more typically associated with zoning regulations thus, if the voters approve the article, we will have to see if the Attorney General approves it as a General By-law. (The AG’s Office must approve all local bylaws.)

The fourth petition article, Article 15, is another non-binding vote that asks voters to express their preference for maintaining our public safety dispatch services in-house, that is, to keep it within our local police station and not obtain the services through the North Shore Regional 911 Center.  Proponents feel that the Town is better served by having our own dispatch operations that we control locally.  Others feel that we can obtain more robust dispatch services through the regional center for a lower cost.

Finally, Article 16 is a citizen petition article that askes voters to pass over any proposed zoning amendments at this Annual Town Meeting.  At the time the petition was submitted there was the possibility of proposed zoning amendments and the proponents of this article felt that it would be premature to take such votes.  However, it turns out no such proposals are before the voters at this time thus it may be that we simply pass over this article.

These six articles are likely to generate much of the debate at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting.  Please let me know if you would like additional information about any of them as you prepare for the 21st.  And keep an eye out for the delivery of the Annual Report and the Finance Committee Report containing all the articles to your doorstep this week.     

Jun 04

From the Town Administrator's Desk - June 4, 2021

Posted on June 4, 2021 at 4:18 PM by Tiffany Marletta

Annual Town Meeting – Capital Project Requests
By Gregory T. Federspiel

This year’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for June 21st at the Middle-High School athletic field.  The gavel will strike at 6:30PM to call the meeting to order.  To encourage all to attend COVID protocols will be in place as an extra safety precaution.  While the number of articles has been kept to as few as possible there are still very important decisions that need to be made including the resolution of 5 citizen petition articles.  Last week I reviewed the 11 Community Preservation projects being proposed.  This week, I dive into the capital requests.

We are making good progress in reducing the scale of our backlog of deferred infrastructure projects. In recent years we have been able to increase our funding for needed capital projects through a combination of directing more tax dollars toward capital, converting retired debt payments to direct cash for projects and using accumulated reserve funds.  For the past few years, we have been gradually increasing the amount of capital exclusion votes by the same amount we are decreasing excluded debt payment for a no net change in taxation.  This year, we can achieve the same result but tap into some of our unused levy capacity instead of voting in an annual capital exclusion. This year’s 0% tax increase and next year’s proposed 1.5% increase has allowed a build-up of unused levy (taxation) capacity per Proposition 2 ½.

Our capital projects continue to focus on mainly replacing vehicles, improving roads/sidewalks/drainage and installing larger, new pipes.  Close to a third of the proposed $3.2 million in capital expenditures is for the Highway Department for road and sidewalk work, replacing three older trucks and engineering support as we begin to study options for a new DPW garage.  Additional funds are also included for the reconstruction of the Central Street dam and culvert as we get closer to starting this project (awaiting word on a large federal grant to pay the bulk of this project’s costs) as well as funding for project oversight for the construction of a new composting facility at the current transfer station site scheduled to start this summer.

A few Town Hall projects are also on the list.  $200,000 is being requested for a needed major upgrade to the elevator that serves the building as well as for direct handicap access to the Police Station entrance.  Another $52,000, to come out of the fees we collect from the cable company, is needed to upgrade the Audio Video equipment in the meeting room to enable us to hold meetings in person and virtually. This will allow boards and committees to meet in person while giving the option for audience members to attend in person or remotely, a new feature that our COVID induced changes has spawned.

Two design studies need voter approval.  One is for a new ADA accessible bathroom at the Library, and the other is a matching sum for renovation and expansion of the fields at Sweeney Park (Community Preservation Funds supply the other half.) 

Requests for our Public Safety operations fund our fire/ambulance apparatus replacement account for the future purchase of these very expensive vehicles, a new police cruiser (we replace one cruiser every year) and a new speed monitoring trailer, upgrades to the police station cell monitoring equipment as well as upgrades to the Fire Station, and the purchase of replacement fire gear.   

For the Harbor Master, funds are requested for a boat to serve as a floating office to be stationed either at Reed Park or Tuck’s Point, allowing better oversight and quicker emergency.  Funds collected from harbor user fees will pay for this.

Finally, for the remaining third of the dollars requested, voters are being asked to fund more water pipe replacement work as well as upgrades to the sewer plant.

All told some 20 items are on tap for voter review and approval.  As we continue to spend around $3 million annually on town capital projects, we are able to reinvest in the existing facilities, equipment and infrastructure that make it possible to continue to serve the needs of the community.  However, there are larger needs that are looming – the need for a new DPW garage, major upgrades to the sewer treatment plant, resiliency measures like bigger seawalls and larger culverts as the impacts of climate change become a greater reality to name just a few.  How we pay for these and other needs longer term will be the subject of coming debates.

For the Annual Town Meeting this June 21st, the focus is on the more immediate reinvestments we need to make in our community.  Both the Selectmen and the Finance Committee members recommend your support for the items spelled out in Article 5, FY22 Capital, of the Warrant.    

May 28

From the Town Administrator's Desk - May 28, 2021

Posted on May 28, 2021 at 9:34 AM by Tiffany Marletta

By Gregory T. Federspiel

With just over three weeks to go it is time to help voters prepare for the decisions they will be making. The ATM will take place on Monday, June 21 starting at 6:30 on the athletic field at the Middle-High School.  The rain date is Wednesday, June 23.  The Town Annual Report and the Finance Committee Report containing all the warrant articles will be delivered to all residents by June 13th.  The warrant is available now on the Town’s web site.

Articles up for debate/votes include the standard budgetary articles – town operating and capital, school operating and debt service, funding for the vocational school, our OPEB trust, and the Park and Recreation revolving fund (program fees collected and expended for the programs.)  We also have the annual list of proposed Community Preservation projects as recommended by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC.) 

Each year, taxpayers pay a 1.5% surcharge on their property tax bill that helps fund the Community Preservation account.  We also receive an annual match from the State – it started out as a 100% match but is now in the 30% range. Annually we receive around $500,000 in CP funds. Unspent funds remain available for a subsequent year. 

The CPC receives applications for projects in three categories – Community Housing, Open Space & Recreation, and Historic Preservation.  At least 10% of the funds received must be allocated to each of these categories. Up to 5% of annual funding can be allocated toward administrative expenses.  For next year, the CPC is again requesting $20,000 for administrative expenses.

11 projects are proposed for CP funding in FY22. These 11 have been endorsed by the CPC, the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee. Proposed projects include:

  • Sweeney Park: Design/engineering for new field layouts. The request for $68,375 proposed to be matched by a $70,000 General Government capital request.                      
  • Landscape Restoration for all Parks and Tucks Point: This $20,000 request is for landscaping improvements at various town parks.
  • Pickleball Courts at Sweeney Park:  $75,000 is requested to convert the old skate park into new pickle ball courts.
  • Automatic Defibrillators for Parks: The $15,000 request will allow the purchase of life-saving defibrillators for town parks.
  • Singing Beach Bathroom preservation: Renovation work at the bathhouse is proposed for a total of $5000.
  • Title Research/Survey Work Western Woods : This is a continuation of work CP dollars have funded previously.  There remain parcels whose owners are unknown in this part of town where we hope to preserve most of the land.  $25,000 request
  • Friends of Manchester Trees – Tree Restoration: The request for $11,000 is targeted toward new tree plantings at Singing Beach and Tucks Point.
  • Affordable Housing Trust Project Funding:  Voters have been approving funds to go to the work of the Trust for the last few years.  This year’s request is for $200,000.
  • Historic Restoration of Library Landscaping: $15,000 is proposed to restore some of the historic landscaping at the Library.
  • Morss Pier Engineering Study for restoration : The Harbormaster has received a grant from the state to develop plans to restore some of the former floats that came off the pier.  Our local match is $33,000, which is the request for this project.
  • Tuck’s Point Public Access Restoration: In a similar vein, the Harbormaster has received a much larger grant to rebuild the floats off the Rotunda.  Our needed local match of the roughly $800,000 project is $135,629 which is the request for CP funds. 

All told a total of $623,004 in CP projects is proposed with all but roughly a $100,000 coming from previous year receipts that have accumulated.  The projects will be presented and voted on at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting.